Add Azure to Office 365 for more flexibility


A while back I wrote a post about where to put data in Office 365. The aim was to help users especially, understand all the different options you have when it comes to using Office 365. It is also important to point out that you don’t have to necessarily use all those locations. The best idea is map the information to the location that makes the most sense, i.e. don’t use OneDrive for Business as a repository for shared file data, that is what Team Sites are for.

Something that I find many people, especially IT Pros, don;t appreciate is that is that Office 365 is built on Azure and when you sign up to Office 365 you also get Azure. You get a very small subset of Azure features (typically just Azure AD) but you do get Azure. You can enable access to the Azure management console using the following steps:

Enabling your Office 365 Azure AD

You can also see what each version of Azure AD contains here:

Azure AD Edition comparison

Again, what many don’t seems to appreciate is that basic Azure installation that is provided with Office 365 can be extended by simply adding a paid Azure subscription to light up all the additional Azure workloads.

Thus, the above picture illustrates the additional options that are available to you when you do this.

A paid subscription of Azure will provide you the ability to back up files and folders as well as services like SharePoint and Exchange. You can also implement site recovery to provide even more recovery options if you want.

Azure will also allow you to create and use SMB file shares, Virtual machines and Azure SQL as locations to store network information in the cloud on top of locations like SharePoint and Groups.

The original diagram now also includes the fact that you can get Office from Office 365 but it also highlights the fact that Azure offers the ability to effectively get Remote Desktop Services via ‘software as a service’ thanks to Remote App.

The colour coding for the diagram is:

Blue – individual user storage locations

Green – shared storage locations

Orange – admin/system storage locations

Yellow – applications

The most important thing here is that tying both Office 365 and Azure together is Azure AD. Even better, you can also sync Azure AD to your on premises environment. This means users in you local AD are the same in your Office 365 and your Azure. This means one identity across all services. This means the same identity uses on premises can also be used with things like Remote App in Azure.

I feel this key message is not something Microsoft has really made clear. Best practice, especially for SMB networks, is to integrate Azure and Office 365 together by enabling the free Azure that comes with Office 365 and then adding a subscription to that rather than creating a separate Azure tenant. Extending the free Office 365 Azure ensures that users from Office 365 are also available to Azure services.

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